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book riotLast week, in a bit of packing-related procrastination, I decided to check in on how I was doing with Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge. Last year, I managed to finish 19 of the 24 tasks, which I thought was pretty good. Unfortunately, I’m not doing as well on the challenge this year. After seven months, I’ve only finished eight of the 24 tasks!

Here are the tasks, with the ones I’ve manged to complete so far in bold:

  1. Read a horror book –
  2. Read a nonfiction book about science –
  3. Read a collection of essays – You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
  4. Read a book out loud to someone else –
  5. Read a middle grade novel –
  6. Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography) – HRC by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes
  7. Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel – The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
  8. Read a book originally published in the decade you were born –
  9. Listen to an audio book that has won an Audie Award –
  10. Read a book over 500 pages long – Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley
  11. Read a book under 100 pages – Ongoingness by Sarah Manguso
  12. Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender –
  13. Read a book that is set in the Middle East –
  14. Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia –
  15. Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900 – The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
  16. Read the first book in a series by a person of color –
  17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years –
  18. Read a book that was adapted into a movie then watch the movie –
  19. Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes – Something New by Lucy Knisley
  20. Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction) –
  21. Read a book about politics in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction) – Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge
  22. Read a food memoir –
  23. Read a play –
  24. Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness –

Given everything going on in the next few months, I’m not sure that I will get to really focus on this particular reading goal for the year. But I’m ok with that too. Either way, I’d love some of your suggestions for books that meet some of my unfinished tasks for the year!

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Currently | Starting to Look Forward

currently  july 25, 2016

Briefly | This week it felt like all of the big changes coming up finally became real. We settled on my last day at the current job, and I finally got around to posting the news on Facebook. As it turned out, I made “the announcement” almost exactly five years to the day I shared that I was hired for the job I have now. Life is a little weird and coincidental sometimes.

Reading | Even though I didn’t officially sign up for the 24 in 48 Readathon, I spent most of Saturday reading. I finished two books I had in progress, The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore and Sleeping Giants by Sylvian Neuvel, and a book I’d set aside earlier this year, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero and Michelle Burford. They were all great, although I was reading them in kind of a blur so I’m not sure I’ll have much to say about them.

Watching | The last time the boyfriend and I made a major move (out of one city and into another), I spent the period when I was packing and emotionally vulnerable binge watching Prison Break. This time around, my network drama of choice is Madam Secretary. It’s a refreshing political show in a time when current politics feel out of control.

Blogging | This week I shared mini-reviews of some books about modern womanhoodThe Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood, You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein, Something New by Lucy Knisley, and Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam.

Loving | There were lots of great moments in Something New, but this piece of advice — “We Make Our Own Adulthood” — resonated with me a lot this week.

Anticipating | My breakfast routine is getting boring, so I’m trying overnight oats this week. I’m starting with this basic recipe, but I would love some suggestions for good adjustments or additions.

Can’t Let It Go | The folks behind the AP Stylebook are really good at Twitter, but I particularly loved that they decided to respond to this question during the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night:

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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As I was skimming back through my most recently-read books, I realized that I’ve been on a bit of a kick reading books about what it means to be a woman — challenges, contradictions, friendships, expectations, institutions, whatever. It makes sense, really, since so much of the last few months has been wrapped up in thinking about turning 30 and all the changes that are coming up. But still, it’s fun to see those themes come up in books that otherwise really don’t have much in common.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

the natural way of things by charlotte woodInstead of writing about The Natural Way of Things, I’d like to just to point you to Shannon’s review at River City Reading, but that would make me a pretty lazy blogger. So, an attempt: The Natural Way of Things is a dark and twisty sort of novel, one that starts with a dystopia-like premise — a group of women who have all been involved in some type of sex scandal are imprisoned in a compound in the Australian outback. They’re forced to work outside each day, guarded by two men ostensibly working for the corporation imprisoning them, all with entirely unknown motives. As the novel progresses, the rules of the compound begin to break down, and each of the women is forced to grapple with their circumstances in a different way. This novel is complex and weird and visceral in a way that I can’t even quiet describe — I enjoyed it a ton.

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

you'll grow out of it by jessi kleinOne of my favorite sub-genres is feminist essay collections, especially those about the contradictions facing modern women. When I saw that Jessi Klein, head writer and executive producer of Inside Amy Schumer had just this kind of collection coming out, I was really excited. You’ll Grow Out of It covers a lot of familiar ground — challenges of dating, finding a therapist, getting engaged, wedding dresses, early motherhood — but I thought Klein had fresh takes on many of these topics. She also writes about her journey into comedy, and a bit about what it’s been like working on her current show. It wasn’t my favorite collection of this type, but it was certainly a fun book to read through when my brain wasn’t ready for anything more serious.

Something New by Lucy Knisley

something new by lucy knisleyLucy Knisley is such a delightful comic artist. I love her style, and the way her books have grown — both in topic and in ambition — as she’s grown. In Something New, Knisley tells the story of her wedding and how she approached writing a book about how great and how nutty weddings can be. I loved that the book took a broader look at wedding culture and the challenges of making moments that are individually meaningful amidst a broad range of traditions that mean more to some people then others. The whole thing is really charming and thoughtful.

Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

rich and pretty by rumaan alamYep, I totally got sucked into all the big summer buzz about Rich and Pretty. A quick synopsis, because the jacket copy pretty much nails it:

As close as sisters for twenty years, Sarah and Lauren have been together through high school and college, first jobs and first loves, the uncertainties of their twenties and the realities of their thirties. Sarah, the only child of a prominent intellectual and a socialite, works at a charity and is methodically planning her wedding. Lauren — beautiful, independent, and unpredictable — is single and working in publishing, deflecting her parents’ worries and questions about her life and future by trying not to think about it herself. Each woman envies — and is horrified by — particular aspects of the other’s life, topics of conversation they avoid with masterful linguistic pirouettes.

This book is great, and really spoke to me at this particular moment. I could see myself and many of my current friendships in Sarah and Lauren, and I could really feel the way each one felt torn about how to speak to and interact with the other as their lives diverged. If you’re still looking for a buzzy book to dig into this summer, Rich and Pretty would be a great pick.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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Currently | Being Here and Getting There

currently july 18 2016

Briefly | As I’m drafting this post on Sunday afternoon, I’m having a hard time figuring out what this week has been about. I’ve been trying to savor the time we still have here, while also thinking about how we’re going to get there. The week has been so full of awful things in the world, yet also full of lovely moments where I feel profoundly grateful. My faltering meditation practice is all about being in the moment, but that’s been hard this week.

Reading | After about 50 pages, I’m going to have to give up on The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I’m enjoying it, but the length and tiny type just isn’t meshing with the scattered brain-space I’m in now. I went with something easier this morning, You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein, a collection of essays on being a lady by the head writer of Inside Amy Schumer. Funny and smart, which is what I wanted. I’m not sure what’s next in the queue, but I’m feeling impulsive and random — maybe The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore or Something New by Lucy Knisley.

Watching | Last night when I couldn’t get to sleep I watched Spotlight, the 2015 film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. I liked that it showed journalists doing the job, the boring and the exciting parts, and never had a female journalist sleep with a source.

Listening | I just added Radiolab’s More Perfect, a look into the world and impact of the Supreme Court, to my podcast queue. It’s a spin-off series with just seven episodes, but it’s a good legal nerd-out among my other podcasts.

Blogging | This week I wrote about how, ahead of a major move, I went out and bought a bunch of books. So responsible!

Loving | We got a new water softener in our rental house, which is amazing! My hair is so bouncy and full of volume now that it’s not being weighed down with the junk in our town’s extremely bad water.

Hating | Is it too early to say packing? I started organizing, decluttering, and boxing up my office and some of the kitchen supplies we don’t use regularly. There’s just so much left to go…

Anticipating | This week is looking pretty bonkers at work. I’ve got lots of events to cover and a mid-week trip for a meeting with other area editors.

Can’t Let It Go | I finally got around to reading the cover story from the June/July edition of The Atlantic, “How American Politics Went Insane”, and wow, did it give me a lot to think about. There’s a lot in the piece, but the basic argument is that the current chaotic political process wasn’t caused by any candidate and isn’t a singular occurrence, it’s a syndrome:

Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.

The idea that reform efforts designed to bring more transparency and accountability to the system have actually helped caused the breakdown is interesting — I definitely want to hear other responses to the piece.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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So, the thing you are not supposed to do before you prepare for a major move is buy more stuff. But that doesn’t apply to books, right? Right.

Thanks, fellow book addicts, for supporting my delusional behavior.

library book sale finds july 2016

My first transgression was at our annual library book sale last week… I didn’t try very hard to keep away. I managed to leave with just five books, which I thought was rather impressive:

  • Mona in the Promised Land by Gish Jen — Historical fiction about a Chinese teenager who moves with her family to Scarshill, New York in 1968.
  • Vacationland by Sarah Stonich — Linked stories connected to a cabin in northern Minnesota, sounds like my jam.
  • Four Souls by Louise Erdrich — I want to read Louise Erdrich’s backlist, so snatched this one up as soon as I saw it.
  • The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser — Interconnected lives in Sri Lanka before independence in 1948.
  • The Big Burn by Timothy Egan — The true story of of the largest forest fire in American history and it’s impact on Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy.

half price books june 2016

Last week, as part of my pre-move anxiety cleansing, I did a sweep through my bookshelves to gather some books to donate. We took three big bags to Half Price Books in the Twin Cities, and it seemed a shame not to use my cash for at least a few titles:

  • The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore — I’ve heard tons of good things about this memoir, about how two kids named Wes Moore grew up in the same neighborhood but became wildly different adults.
  • Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan — I have an ARC of this great memoir, but I’ve been hoping to replace it with a real copy.
  • The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich — Same as above, I’m excited to dig into her backlist. This one was published the year I was born, so it’ll be good for the Read Harder challenge.
  • The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel — I’ve only read Station Eleven, but that book was so great I’m excited to try to backlist titles from her too.

So, nine more paperbacks in the collection. On Monday, when I was busy adulting, I finished organizing and decluttering the last two shelves in my house. Now, it’s just a matter of getting everything packed up and ready to go when we move next month. And from now on, no more books!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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